PITTSTON — Veterans Day is every day at the Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. world headquarters. And with the help of the local community, the headquarters is able to help veterans in the United States and across the globe.
The Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. and The Veterans Coalition, located on South Township Boulevard, distributes clothes and helps homeless veterans find housing throughout the world. The organization offers a drop box for used clothing at their location which they distribute to veterans in need.
Executive Director Nancy Verespy said many organizations just to clothing drives in the winter months for hats and coats.
“We service veterans all year long,” she said. “We collect them throughout the year so we can have them available at any time.”
At the location, the organization has a trailer full of used clothes ready to distribute. This way of helping veterans does not cost the organization anything. Many times, the organization has veterans stop in off the street needing financial help as well.
“We try and help everyone,” Verespy said.
Over the course of a year, Verespy said the organization helps around 1,000 people, but she said that number could easily be much more than that. Retired senior volunteers help the organization separate the clothes from two drop boxes on the location. They ask for any used clothing, including shoes, jeans, jackets and sweatshirts.
Last week, Verespy said an elderly lady came into the office with five sets of scarves, hats and gloves with the tags still on them. The lady found them lying in her closet and decided it was right to donate to the veterans.
“That’s what we’re asking people to do,” Verespy said.
The Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. and The Veterans Coalition is an international, non-profit, accredited veteran service organization devoted to caring for all American and allied veterans and their families. A drop-off clothing box is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the organization’s U.S. National Commander Peter J. Forbes, an Australian Vietnam veteran, there are approximately 200,000 homeless veterans in the United States. Forbes was a combat medic in Vietnam.
“I’ve been trying to give back ever since,” he said. “I just wish there were more patriotism. It’s a constant fight and I don’t see that number dropping.”
Forbes also oversees the United Veterans Beacon House, which provides transitional, safe housing for homeless veterans as they reintegrate into society.
During a veteran’s stay at a Beacon House, a full range of services are provided including drug and alcohol counseling, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder counseling, and other counseling, life skills training, full employment counseling and a wide range of medical services.
“It’s a daily struggle to house, transition and train homeless veterans,” Forbes said. “Trying to get people to donate is worse than pulling teeth.”
According to the Veterans of Vietnam War, Inc., 300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and twice that number experience homelessness over the course of a year. One-third of the homeless have served in the United States military. Approximately 58 percent of the homeless are from the Vietnam era.
Currently, there are 22 Beacon House locations in New York, one near Lancaster, and a Native American veteran house in South Dakota.
Two years ago, the organization tried to start a Beacon House right here in the Greater Pittston area, but the project never got off the ground.
“People don’t want homeless veterans,” Forbes said. “We’re the best neighbors you could ever have. They’ve served their country and they need people to cut them some slack.”
If you would like to make a donation to any of the Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. programs, or The Veterans Coalition, contact the office at 805 S. Township Blvd., Pittston, PA 18640. For more information call 570-603-9740.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick